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Pipeline blast in N.M. kills 10 campers nearby

SHARE Pipeline blast in N.M. kills 10 campers nearby

CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) — An underground natural gas pipeline exploded Saturday, killing 10 people who had been camping nearby. Three other campers were in critical condition.

The victims, five of them children, were members of at least two southeastern New Mexico families who were camping along the Pecos River about 200 to 300 yards from where the explosion occurred, said state police Capt. John Balderston.

Balderston said a woman who survived recalled being awakened by shouts about a fire.

"She stands up and discovers she's on fire and jumps in the river," Balderston said, "then returns to get her children — and can't, because it's so intense."

Near the river, investigators found sleeping bags and tents melted by the heat, Balderston said. "The only reason we could tell it was a tent was the geometric design of the poles," he said.

The pipeline was 8 to 15 feet underground at the rupture point, El Paso Natural Gas Co. spokeswoman Norma Dunn said. The rupture occurred about 500 feet east of the river, around 20 to 30 miles south of Carlsbad in southeastern New Mexico.

"It is an absolute mystery right now as to why that blew," Balderston said. Dunn said investigators may never be able to say what sparked it.